The Chrysalids was one of my favourite books as a teenager. It was assigned reading in one of my classes, and I expected it to be dull, but it really took me by surprise. For some odd reason, though, I never looked into any of Wyndham’s other books and eventually just forgot about him.
I knew of The Day of the Triffids purely because I had heard it was an inspiration for both The Walking Dead and 28 Days Later. I watched the old BBC series when I first got Netflix (holds up quite well actually – apart from the Triffids themselves), and when I finally made the connection with The Chrysalids I knew I had to read the book.
When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.
Due to a strange event one night, nearly the entire world went blind. The novel’s protagonist, Bill Masen, was in a London hospital at the time of the event, with bandages covering his eyes, and this prevented him from losing his sight. He spends the rest of the novel dealing with the aftermath of the event. Wyndham does a great job in showing a world quietly grind to a halt, as well as exploring the difficulties that would arise between the sighted and the blind.
To make matters much more complicated, there are now Triffids on the loose as well. Triffids are carnivorous plants that poison their prey, take root next to the corpse, and begin feeding once the rotting begins. Their origins are unknown, but countries around the world had been keeping farms full of them in order to harvest an oil they produce. The idea of being newly blind in a world overrun by these creatures really does come across as terrifying, although I do wish I had listened to this novel before seeing the television series, just so I wouldn’t have the BBC’s cheesy idea of what a Triffid looks like in my mind.
When it comes down to it, though, the Triffids are essentially just a sinister backdrop for the main struggle – that of trying to survive, against all odds, in a society that stopped dead overnight.